Nov 182018

Today is the birthday (701 CE) of the Mayan “king” (ajaw), Itzam K’an Ahk II, also known as Ruler 4, which, among other things, gives me the opportunity to present his date of birth in the Mayan Long Count: 7 Men 18 K’ank’in. Of the three extant references to Itzam K’an Ahk’s birth, none mentions his line of descent, suggesting that Itzam K’an Ahk was not his predecessor’s (K’inich Yo’nal Ahk II’s) son, and that he may have been the founder of a new dynasty. In one carving, the ajaw in his name is shown with a turtle ornament on his belt, suggesting that one of his ancestors had the word auk (“turtle”) in his name and was thus of royal blood. Additionally, Stela 40 shows what could be Itzam K’an Ahk’s mother in Teotihuacano dress, suggesting that Itzam K’an Ahk was emphasizing maternal connections to Teotihuacan. This stela was erected exactly 83 Tzolk’in, (about 59 years), following the death of Itzam K’an Ahk I (a former ajaw of Piedras Negras whose name Itzam K’an Ahk II adopted), vaguely suggesting some kind of link between the two.

Itzam K’an Ahk II ascended to power on November 9th, 729 ( 7 Ben 16 K’ank’in). In 749, he celebrated his one K’atun as ruler, an event that was attended by many dignitaries, including a b’aah sajal (“first ruler”) named K’an Mo’ Te’ who had served K’inich Yo’nal Ahk II. The events of this banquet were later recorded by the final ajaw of Piedras Negras, K’inich Yat Ahk II on Panel 3. This carving shows Itzam K’an Ahk II lecturing the interim ruler of Yaxchilan, Yopaat Bahlam II, about Piedras Negras’ local dominance. (This panel has lent support to the belief that during Itzam K’an Ahk II’s rule, Piedras Negras had eclipsed Yaxchilan in power.) The K’atun celebration was followed by another event a few days later, at which Itzam K’an Ahk II performed a ‘descending macaw’ dance and then had a drink made from fermented cacao beans passed around to his guests.

Itzam K’an Ahk II probably engaged in war, since a pyrite disc found in his tomb depicts the severed head of a leader from Hix Witz. It seems likely that Hix Witz was under Piedras Negras’ control, largely based on the disk and because the Maya center is identified on Panel 7, erected earlier by Itzam K’an Ahk I, as a “tributary bearing plumes and textiles” to Piedras Negras.

Itzam K’an Ahk II’s reign was clearly marked by hegemony over neighboring kingdoms. He died on November 26th, 757 ( 7 Kaban 0 Pax) and was buried three days later. According to Panel 3, the burial took place at the “‘mountain’ of ho janaab witz”, which in this context refers to Pyramid O-13. Itzam K’an Ahk II was succeeded by Yo’nal Ahk III on March 10th, 758. Itzam K’an Ahk II’s burial site was venerated by the succeeding kings of Piedras Negras, which has led some scholars to hypothesize that Itzam K’an Ahk II produced a new ruling dynasty, and that the following three kings—Yo’nal Ahk III, Ha’ K’in Xook, and K’inich Yat Ahk II—were his sons.

Itzam K’an Ahk II erected at least five stelae: 9, 10, 11, 22, and 40, of which Stelae 9, 10, and 11 were raised in front of or near Structure J-3. Stela 11, constructed in August of 731, is of the niche variety (meaning it depicts the ruler seated in a small hollow, or niche) and commemorates Itzam K’an Ahk II’s ascent to power. This monument depicts him flanked by witnesses to the ceremonies explored on the stela itself. The expanse in front of the stone slab was a space for offering and supplication, the monument’s bottom depicts human sacrifice. The monument was discovered by Teoberto Maler in two pieces on the ground; the front was well-preserved (even retaining some of its pigment), although the glyphs on the upper right were weathered.

Stela 9 had long been broken into thirds when it was discovered in 1899 by Maler. While these fragments had eroded slightly, the base was later found in situ by the University of Pennsylvania’s University Museum. In the 1960s, looters carted off parts of the monument, namely a portion depicting a captive. Stela 10 is highly eroded, resulting in a loss of detail. In addition to this decay, the head ornament has presumably been lost. Stela 40 contains the depiction of the aforementioned woman dressed in Teotihuacano garb; it shows Itzam K’an Ahk II dispersing something—hypothesized to be either blood or incense—into a “psychoduct” (that is, a vent leading into a subplaza tomb). The female on the stela, denoted only by an “upside down vase” glyph, is likely Itzam K’an Ahk II’s mother.

Given that Itzam K’an Ahk served fermented cacao beans in a drink for his anniversary, the following video on fermenting cacao may be instructive to you. Chocolate served as a drink was reserved for Mayan nobility and the fermentation process is necessary to bring out the chocolate flavor:

Here also is a video on supposedly ancient Mayan cooking styles. It’s a bit touristy, and not in any sense academically rigorous, but it has some interesting moments nonetheless.


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